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COVID-19 in B.C.: Sudden surge in vaccinations; almost 700 new cases; two new healthcare outbreaks; and more – The Georgia Straight

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B.C.’s new case count neared 700 COVID-19 cases today while active cases remained level with yesterday.

Restrictions and health measures previously implemented in response to the Central Okanagan outbreak appear to be having some effect. Active cases numbers in the Interior Health region dropped over the weekend, and although they resumed rising earlier this week, today they sank once again.

Unfortunately, there are two new healthcare outbreaks, as well as 14 flights listed with potential exposures.

There’s also some news on the vaccination front.

In the wake of the province announcing its new B.C. Vaccine Card program that will be required for entry to non-essential social and recreational events and businesses, the B.C. Health Ministry has reported a surge in vaccinations this week, particularly among those under 40 years of age.

On Monday (August 23), there were 8,909 new registrations and 7,347 new appointment bookings, which is a 174.8 percent increase in daily registrations and an 88.6 percent daily increase compared to the previous Monday (which had 3,242 new registrations and 3,896 bookings).

Then on Tuesday (August 24), there were 10,175 total new registrations and 9,486 new appointment bookings, which is a 201.3 percent increase in registrations and a 124.4 percent increase in bookings compared to the previous Tuesday (which had 3,279 new registrations and 4,228 appointment bookings).

Over the past two days, 12,904 people under the age of 40 registered for vaccinations, and 11,301 people under 40 have booked appointments.

In comparison, there were 4,161 registrations and 5,077 appointment bookings for people under 40 during the same period last week.

The B.C. Vaccine Card will begin on September 13 when proof of one dose will be required for access to a list of settings, followed by two doses required by October 24.

The list includes nightclubs and casinos; restaurants; indoor arts, music, and sporting events; movie theatres; fitness facilities; and more.

Today, the B.C. Health Ministry is reporting 698 new COVID-19 cases (including five epi-linked cases).

Currently, there are 5,356 active cases, which is only one fewer case than yesterday.

The new and active cases include:

  • 252 new cases in Interior Health, with 1,911 total active cases (a decrease of 143 cases since yesterday);
  • 203 new cases in Fraser Health, with 1,294 total active cases;
  • 129 new cases in Vancouver Coastal Health, with 1,347 total active cases;
  • 69 new cases in Island Health, with 470 total active cases;
  • 45 new cases in Northern Health, with 322 total active cases;
  • no new cases of people who reside outside of Canada, with 12 total active cases.

As of today, 139 individuals are in hospital (one more person than yesterday) and 75 of those patients are in intensive care units (three fewer than yesterday).

A total of 154,669 people have now recovered, which includes 702 recoveries since yesterday.

Unfortunately, there was one new death reported (in Fraser Health), which brings the overall total fatalities to 1,802 people who have died of COVID-19-related reasons.

B.C. has reported a cumulative total of 161,969 COVID-19 cases during the pandemic.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry
Province of British Columbia

From August 10 to 23, people who aren’t fully vaccinated accounted for 83.3 percent of COVID-19 cases and 85 percent of hospitalizations.

Of the cases on August 23, there were:

  • 372 unvaccinated people (68.4 percent);
  • 53 partially vaccinated (9.7 percent);
  • 119 fully vaccinated (21.9 percent).

Among COVID-19 cases from August 17 to 23, there were:

  • 3,051 unvaccinated people (66.8 percent);
  • 535 partially vaccinated (16.5 percent);
  • 752 fully vaccinated (16.6 percent).

Among hospitalizations from August 10 to 23:

  • 144 unvaccinated (77 percent);
  • 15 partially vaccinated (8 percent);
  • 28 fully vaccinated (15 percent).

Since December, B.C. has administered 7,369,741 doses of Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca vaccines.

As of today, 83.5 percent (3,869,329) of eligible people 12 and older have received their first dose and 75.4 percent (3,493,119) received their second dose.

In addition, 84.2 percent (3,642,878) of all eligible adults in B.C. have received their first dose and 76.5 percent (3,308,987) received their second dose.

None of the five regional health authorities listed any new community outbreaks, business closures, or public exposure events.

However, there are two new healthcare facility outbreaks.

Vancouver Coastal Health declared an outbreak at St. Vincent’s Brock Fahrni Pavilion, where restrictions were imposed on August 24 on the third floor.

Meanwhile, Interior Health declared an outbreak is at the Spring Valley Care Centre in Kelowna.

Currently, there are 14 active outbreaks in healthcare facilities, including:

  • longterm care: Heritage Village (Fraser Health); Brock Fahrni (Vancouver Coastal Health); Village at Mill Creek, Nelson Jubilee Manor, Kootenay Street Village, Cottonwoods Care Centre, Brookhaven Care Centre, and Spring Valley Care Centre (Interior Health);
  • acute care: Peace Arch Hospital (Fraser Health);
  • assisted or independent living: Nicola Meadows, Hawthorn Park, David Lloyd, Sun Pointe Village, and Hardy View Lodge (Interior Health).

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) added the following 14 flights to its lists of possible public exposures (affected row information is listed at the BCCDC website when available):

  • August 12: WestJet Flight 3293, Calgary to Kelowna;
  • August 13: Air Canada Flight 184, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • August 16: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 2262, Vancouver to Fort St. John;
  • August 17: WestJet Flight 135, Calgary to Vancouver;
  • August 20: WestJet Flight 360, Vancouver to Winnipeg;
  • August 21: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 8184, Fort St. John to Vancouver;
  • August 21: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 8571, Regina to Vancouver;
  • August 21: Lufthansa Flight 492, Frankfurt to Vancouver;
  • August 21: Swoop Flight 208, Abbotsford to Edmonton;
  • August 22: Air Canada Flight 126, Vancouver to Toronto;
  • August 22: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 8062, Victoria to Vancouver;
  • August 22: Air Canada/Jazz Flight 8470, Vancouver to Edmonton;
  • August 22: WestJet Flight 196, Victoria to Calgary;
  • August 22: WestJet Flight 542, Vancouver to Montreal.

Sobeys listed one employee, who last worked on August 21, at the Safeway store located at 1100–2850 Shaughnessy Street in Port Coquitlam has tested positive.

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'Waning immunity?' Some experts say term leads to false understanding of COVID-19 vaccines – CBC.ca

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The idea of waning immunity has picked up steam in recent weeks, with some countries using it to justify rolling out third-dose COVID-19 vaccine boosters to their populations. But immunologists say the concept has been largely misunderstood.

While antibodies — proteins created after infection or vaccination that help prevent future invasions from the pathogen — do level off over time, experts say that’s supposed to happen.

And it doesn’t mean we’re not protected against COVID-19.

Jennifer Gommerman, an immunologist with the University of Toronto, said the term “waning immunity” has given people a false understanding of how the immune system works.

“Waning has this connotation that something’s wrong, and there isn’t,” she said. “It’s very normal for the immune system to mount a response where a ton of antibodies are made and lots of immune cells expand. And for the moment, that kind of takes over.

WATCH | Waning immunity sparks debate about need for COVID-19 booster shots: 

Waning immunity sparks debate about need for COVID-19 booster shots

25 days ago

Recent studies show a drop in effectiveness for COVID-19 vaccines, but the lack of information about how severe breakthrough cases were has sparked a debate about whether booster shots are necessary. 2:03

“But it has to contract, otherwise you wouldn’t have room for subsequent immune responses.”

Antibody levels ramp up in the “primary response” phase after vaccination or infection, “when your immune system is charged up and ready to attack,” said Steven Kerfoot, an associate professor of immunology at Western University in London, Ont.

Memory of pathogen remains

They then decrease from that “emergency phase,” he said. But the memory of the pathogen and the body’s ability to respond to it remain.

Kerfoot said B-cells, which make the antibodies, and T-cells, which limit the virus’s ability to cause serious damage, continue to work together to stave off severe disease long after a vaccine is administered. While T-cells can’t recognize the virus directly, they determine which cells are infected and kill them off quickly.

Recent studies have suggested the T-cell response is still robust several months following a COVID-19 vaccination.

“You might get a minor infection … [but] all of those cells are still there, which is why we’re still seeing very stable effectiveness when it comes to preventing severe disease,” Kerfoot said.

In the U.S., an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration overwhelmingly decided on Friday against offering Pfizer COVID-19 booster shots to most Americans — limiting third doses to those aged 65 and older or at high risk for severe disease. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/The Associated Press)

A pre-print study released this week by Public Health England suggested that protection against hospitalization and death remains much higher than protection against infection, even among older adults.

So the concept of waning immunity depends on whether you’re measuring protection against infection or against severe disease, Kerfoot said.

Ontario reported 43 hospitalized breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated on Friday, compared with 256 unvaccinated hospitalized infections. There were 795 total new cases in the province that day, 582 among those who weren’t fully vaccinated or had an unknown vaccination status.

British Columbia, meanwhile, saw 53 fully vaccinated COVID-19 patients hospitalized over the last two weeks, compared with 318 unvaccinated patients.

“You’ll hear people say that vaccines aren’t designed to protect infection, they’re designed to prevent severe disease,” Kerfoot said. “I wouldn’t say necessarily it’s the vaccine that’s designed to do one or another … that’s just how the immune system works.”

Moderna, Pfizer back need for booster

Moderna released real-world data this week suggesting its vaccine was 96 per cent effective at preventing hospitalization, even amid the more transmissible delta variant, and 87 per cent effective at preventing infection — down from 94 per cent efficacy seen in clinical trials last year.

Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said that dip “illustrates the impact of waning immunity and supports the need for a booster to maintain high levels of protection.”

Pfizer-BioNTech has argued the same with its own data, and an advisory panel to the U.S.-based Food and Drug Administration voted Friday to endorse third doses for those aged 65 and older or at high risk for severe disease.

However, the panel rejected boosters for the general population, saying the pharmaceutical company had provided little safety data on extra jabs.

The University of Toronto’s Gommerman said the efficacy data presented by Moderna doesn’t signal the need for a third dose.

“The fact it protects 87 per cent against infection, that’s incredible,” she said. “Most vaccines can’t achieve that.”

Bancel said Moderna’s research, which has yet to be peer reviewed, suggested a booster dose could also extend the duration of the immune response by re-upping neutralizing antibody levels.

Looking beyond the antibody response

But Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti, an infectious physician in Mississauga, Ont., said looking solely at the antibody response is misleading and could be falsely used as justification for an infinite number of boosters.

Israel, which has opened third doses for its citizens, recently talked about administering fourth doses in the near future.

“This idea of waning immunity is being exploited, and it’s really concerning to see,” Chakrabarti said. “There’s this idea that antibodies mean immunity, and that’s true … but the background level of immunity, the durable T-cell stuff, hasn’t been stressed enough.”

While some experts maintain that boosters for the general population are premature, they agree some individuals would benefit from a third jab.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended boosters for the immunocompromised, who don’t mount a robust immune response from a two-dose series.

Other experts have argued that residents of long-term care homes, who were prioritized when the rollout began last December, may also soon need a third dose. The English study suggests immunity could be waning in older groups but not much — if at all — among those under age 65.

Chakrabarti said a decrease in protection among older populations could be due more to “overlapping factors,” including their generally weaker immune systems and congregate-living situations for those in long-term care.

Immune cells live for years within bone marrow

“These are people at the highest risk of hospitalization,” he said. “Could [the length of time that’s passed following their doses] be playing a role? Yeah, maybe.”

While we still don’t know the duration of the immune response to COVID-19 vaccination, Gommerman said immune cells typically continue to live within bone marrow and make small amounts of antibodies for “decades.”

“And they can be quickly mobilized if they encounter a pathogen,” she said.

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Coronavirus cases in Quebec rise by 821 with three new deaths and two more hospitalizations – CTV News Montreal

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MONTREAL —
Quebec reported Saturday that 821 more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the province, bringing the overall number of infections to 402,283.

Of the new infections, 609 people were unvaccinated when they received their positive result, 49 received one dose of vaccine more than two weeks prior, and 163 were double-vaxxed more than a week before the test. 

Hospitalizations rose by two bringing the total number of people receiving care in the province’s hospitals to 264. The ministry reports that 36 people checked in for care, and 34 were discharged. Of the 36, 28 were unvaccinated, two received one vaccine dose more than 14 days prior and six got both jabs more than a week before entering the hospital. 

There are 89 people in intensive care wards, which is six fewer than on Friday.

Three more people have died due to COVID-19, bringing that total to 11,321 since March 2020.

There are 508 active outbreaks in the province.

Quebec’s vaccination rate remains at 88 per cent for one dose of the eligible population and 82 per cent for both doses. 

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Spike in COVID-19 cases is pushing New Brunswick's health-care system to the limit – CTV News Atlantic

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MONCTON, N.B. —
New Brunswick’s jump in COVID-19 cases has overloaded the health-care system this week.

The Horizon Health Network is now looking to hire more staff across the province to help with the growing demand for testing and vaccinations.

The health network has seen an increased demand in testing as COVID-19 cases have soared over the last month.

“Two weeks ago, if you wanted a test, you could walk in or call and get it at almost anytime you wanted,” said Dr. Jeff Steeves with New Brunswick’s Medical Society.

But now, assessment centres are seeing long line ups and delays in testing.

Steeves wants people to get the jab and practice caution during this time to prevent overloading the system even more.

“Remember, we were running short even before COVID, so we’re trying to maintain that,” Steeves said. “Therefore, we can’t divert the staff like we did before, hence the call for new staff.”

Horizon Health’s vice-president said in a statement Friday that they are currently looking to recruit staff at vaccination clinics, assessment centres and school clinics in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton.

“Given the recent rise in COVID activity in New Brunswick, and the increased demand for these services, we are hoping to replenish our pool of available clinicians and administrative support staff as we ramp up activity at these locations,” said Jean Daigle.

Since the province announced proof of vaccination requirements this week, public health has reported a significant jump in vaccination appointments.

On Wednesday, 1,700 appointments were booked, while yesterday there were 1,929.

Health officials say prior to Wednesday’s number, the recent average for vaccinations was 600 bookings per day. On Thursday, 600 additional vaccines had to be delivered to a clinic in Moncton.

“Things have picked up dramatically,” said Fredericton pharmacist Alistair Bursary, who says they’ve been busy taking calls from people looking to get their first or second dose.

“So, whereas we were doing perhaps 10 patients a day on average now we are probably going to hit 40-50 just at our pharmacy alone,” Bursary said.

While the demand for services continue to climb, those working on the frontlines hope to get the help they need sooner rather than later.

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